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iTune – Influence

“Thank you so much for all that you have done for Billy. He is a different child since you have started working with him as his one-to-one teaching assistant. He is more attentive; he listens better and he is telling us about the strategies that he uses with you for his spelling.” Sandra could have cried there and then as Billy’s mum told her the difference working with her had made. She loved helping empowering children to see ways they could achieve. She was all about growth.

That evening, she recounted the conversation to her husband Pete at the dinner table. He could see the difference it made to her, hearing how she had influenced Billy. “How was your day?” said Sandra. The contrast for Pete couldn’t have been greater. Hours in an office phoning customers and following up issues, his customer service role felt far from customer service. It just felt like a long, hard slog. “I don’t know,” he said, as he sunk further into his chair. “I just don’t think I make a difference anymore.”

In our third of our ‘iTune’ series on how to engage your team, we look at the power that understanding who you make a difference to and how you make a difference can make to an employee. Patrick Lencioni, in his book ‘The truth about employee engagement’, outlines 3 key things that disengage staff in work and creates job misery. He said it is Anonymity, Irrelevance and Immeasurement. The second one, Irrelevance, is that they don’t know the impact their role has on others. So, in order to engage employees, they need to know their relevance. They need to know who they are having impact on and what their influence is. For me, this knowing your influence comes in 3 steps:

  • Knowing your purpose

  • Knowing who you serve

  • Knowing it is having impact

Knowing your purpose

Knowing our purpose generates a focus and a motivation that seeks to overcome every obstacle. Victor Frankl’s famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning, in which he describes his experiences in concentration camps during the Second World War. Frankl observed that the inmates who were most likely to survive were those who felt they had a goal or purpose. He said, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” If employees know the purpose of what they are doing, then it engages them. Let me give you an example. Gert, when she sits at reception at The Mix youth provision in Stowmarket, knows that her welcome makes visitors to the ‘Cabbages & Kings’ coffee shop return again. When they return, they buy from the coffee shop and the money raised helps the young people that the Mix serves. She knows when she says hello to a young person entering the building, that it makes them feel valued and that helps them feel safe enough to return again. Gert knows her purpose of making young people feel valued. Therefore, simple welcomes to adults and young people have importance – it is making the difference to the life of a young person. As Aristotle said, ‘Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom’. For me a key part of that is knowing your purpose. When people know why they are doing something, they will work more passionately at it.

So, ask yourself this key question - In your organisation, is the purpose clear? Is it short and simple so it is impossible to forget?

Knowing who you serve

For some it may seem obvious who they serve but for many it is about being really clear. If you work in a school, it is obvious that you serve the children and the families. However, it can also be that you doing your role well makes a difference to your colleagues too. Sometimes we need to spell it out to people. ‘When you gather that data, it enables your colleague to deliver their part more effectively’. A simple statement like:

You make a difference to . . . . . when you . . . . (fill in the gaps), can make a huge difference to people.

So, ask yourself these key questions – Can I tell each person in the organisation who they make a difference to and what it is that they do that makes the difference?

Knowing it is having impact

After a bad day, what makes you get up the following morning and still come into work? It’s knowing that you make a difference to others. I’m a governor at a school and the other day I had a meeting with the headteacher and a member of staff. The staff member had created a really helpful report and so I made sure that I told her how helpful the report had been to my role as a governor. Needless to say, her face said it all as she beamed at the feedback. Take yourself back to the story at the start of this blog. Sandra was delighted to know she had made a difference to Billy. What helped is when she had specific feedback. When we give feedback to those that work for us, it is important to be specific where we can.

I love Francis of Assisi’s quote in his ancient prayer, “for it is in giving that we receive". There is a strange consequence that when we have a purpose that means that we are giving to others. When we are demonstrating the African concept of ‘Ubuntu’, of living for the other, that we receive a sense of wholeness. Where gratitude, leads to inner peace and contentment, to a sense of being in ‘flow’ and life seems to have more joy because of it. So, when we know that we are having impact, it feeds that part of us. As leaders, it is our role to make sure that people know the difference that they are making. Telling them stories of impact, giving them feedback from customers or stakeholders. All of this helps them know, ‘I am having impact’.

So, ask yourself these key questions – Have I ensured there are channels for people to get feedback about the difference that they are making? Am I making sure they get specific feedback?

Would you like to tune in your staff and get greater engagement? We can help you in a range of ways. Maybe, you would like us to help you assess with fresh eyes what you have but what is missing? Maybe you would like some coaching to help discover purpose? Everyday Leader is here to empower, inspire and equip you to do that If we can help you find a way forward, through coaching, training or consultancy. Do let us know if we can be of help to you by contacting us at


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